Tularemia has been identified as a disease of concern to human, wildlife and domestic animal populations within the United States. It, like plague, is considered a "Category A" disease by the Department of Homeland Security, meaning it could potentially be used as a bioterrorist agent.
Tularemia is found most often in the South-Central and Western US, mostly in rural areas. It is also found internationally, throughout the Northern Hemisphere in places like Japan, Russia and Scandinavia.
Tularemia is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis.
Tularemia mostly affects, and is reservoired within, a variety of mammals including (but not limited to) beavers, water voles, rabbits, hares, skunks and coyotes.
The disease is not contagious from human to human, but can be spread by the bites of fleas, ticks and other arthropods that have fed on infected wildlife, or by contact with the carcass of the infected animal. Reported human cases of tularemia in the United States currently average about 200 yearly, a dramatic reduction from the over 1,000 cases per year that occurred in the 1930s and 1940s.
NWDP biologists and their collaborators are currently sampling aquatic rodents and other susceptible species across the US to detect the presence of tularemia antibodies in their blood. Due to the focus on early detection, local health professionals can be alerted when tularemia is present in a region and take this into consideration when examining certain symptoms.
In humans, tularemia first emerges as a flu-like illness. Depending on the method of exposure to the bacterium, infected individuals may also experience lesions, swollen lymph glands and even the development of pneumonia. When these symptoms are positively identified as tularemia, they can be treated with prescription antibiotics.
Tularemia Surveillance Updates
Tularemia Surveillance Update Volume 1, Issue 1, October 2010
NWDP Tularemia Surveillance Update May 2011
More information on tularemia:
Center for Disease Control- Tularemia
USGS Tularemia Book (download page)
Thomas Gidlewski, DVM
4101 Laporte Ave
Fort Collins, CO 805021